QCIF Projects

Adapting to climate change: Terra Nova

Polar bearThere's an important distinction between climate change and climate change adaptation. Research into climate change looks at questions of how the climate is changing and how this change will affect the environment. Climate change adaptation looks at how we can respond to these changes – how we can reduce the impacts of stresses on human and natural systems including our cities and regions, our agriculture and aquaculture, and the biodiversity of our environment, and how we can harness any beneficial opportunities. In other words, what should we do to prepare and adapt?


Imagine you work for the Queensland Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, and you're working on the next 20-year regional plan for Southeast Queensland. Where do you find out about the options you might have for managing risks and increasing the region's resilience? Climate change adaption is a new field of research. There are some research reports available, if you can identify them, but you may have to wade through 600 densely written pages in each report to find the information you're looking for. There may also be some grey literature and case studies from other regions outlining responses they have taken to climate change, but finding any that are relevant to you may be extremely difficult.

This is where Terra Nova comes in. Terra Nova is an information hub for climate change adaptation research. It's about making it easier for everyone who needs climate change adaptation information to discover, share, and use it. It's also a failsafe to make sure this vital information is preserved and made accessible. Terra Nova is an initiative of Griffith University, QCIF, and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

Sam Mackay, Senior Analyst with the project, previously worked for the Queensland Government as a policy officer for climate change adaptation. He says Terra Nova has great potential to bridge the gap between researchers and planners. "On the one side you have a range of Australian researchers creating sophisticated climate models. On the other side you have conservation planners, and there is a big gap between these groups. Terra Nova enables the possibility through tools to bridge the gap." For example, the site includes a visualisation tool that can be used as a standard interface to climate change models created for specific purposes. The tool not only makes it easy to see and understand climate change modelling data, it also allows data generated for one particular purpose to be re-used for many other purposes, and this re-use extends the reach of the original research investment in collecting the data.

Terra Nova are working collaboratively with the Australian Government to act as the repository for research they have funded under the $8 million National Resource Management (NRM) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research initiative. Under this program nine project teams from research institutions are working with regional NRM organisations across Australia to deliver climate change information and provide guidance on the effective use of that information in resource management planning processes. Mackay sees this as a great example of the key role Terra Nova can play in helping to make research data and information more securely stored, readily discoverable, and more frequently re-used. "These kinds of linkages between eResearch infrastructure and major research projects show that governments are now thinking about information management in a way that wasn't even on their radar before."

QRIScloud, operated by QCIF, is offering the hundreds of terabytes of storage required to host Terra Nova's extensive and expanding data collections and to make them widely available to researchers, governments and other interested parties. Mackay believes the infrastructure provided by QRIScloud enables projects such as Terra Nova to become a reality. "Terra Nova is a seed project. It needs to be incubated. Having a storage infrastructure freely available upfront with QRIScloud really helps ideas like Terra Nova get established and mature. Without economical and straightforward access to these capital-intensive facilities, it would be easier for universities to put these projects off. The kind of thinking we've done with Terra Nova wouldn't be anywhere near where it is without the thinking in initiatives like QRIScloud and QCIF."